Call of Duty: Vanguard Channels Modern Warfare to Provide Multiplayer Thrills

Campaign and co-op are integral parts of the Call of Duty experience that players expect every year. It’s multiplayer that turned Call of Duty into the juggernaut it remains today, however, with both Infinity Ward and Treyarch continuously building it out over the years. Sledgehammer Games has only been around for two games (Advanced Warfare and WWII), whose controversial multiplayer additions (Jetpacks in the former and the Divisions system in the latter) have vanished from the multiplayer experience. With Call of Duty: Vanguard, Sledgehammer Games appears to be playing it safe, following Infinity Ward’s footsteps and building a game that lifts heavily from 2019s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. We got a chance to check out the multiplayer ahead of the upcoming beta to see how Vanguard’s multiplayer is shaping up and see what Sledgehammer has in store for the franchise.

The comparisons to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare are inevitable. Vanguard borrows heavily from the 2019 entry, adapting many of that entry’s mechanics and features into its World War II setting. The Gunsmith returns, being a near replica of Modern Warfare’s, though players can now equip up to ten attachments/weapon perks. Tactical sprinting, weapon mounting, killstreaks, Dead Silence as a Field Upgrade, and interactable doors also return. The time-to-kill is about the same as Modern Warfare and guns pack a powerful punch. That’s not to say some elements from Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War don’t make an appearance. A handful of killstreaks are repurposed scorestreaks from the lastest game, including the Death Machine. The Elimination system also returns.

 

Call of Duty: Vanguard does put its own stamp on the multiplayer experience, though. Sledgehammer Games are doing interesting things with its collection of maps, modes and play styles. In terms of maps, this will be the largest collection of launch maps any Call of Duty has had in years. We got to test out four of the 16 launch 6v6 maps. Hotel Royal takes place across and inside the rooftop of a Paris hotel; Red Star drops players onto a snowy block in Stalingrad; Eagle’s Nest is a Nazi command center high in the mountains; and finally, Gavutu is a tropical island blanketed by rainfall. The maps were solid, showcasing the visuals and destruction mechanics.

Of the four, Hotel Royal had the most destruction, with players bringing down walls and effectively creating new power positions. Not everything can be destroyed like in a Battlefield title, but there’s a good selection of different materials that can be leveled. Red Star was a long-range map, perfect for snipers, marksman rifles and LMGs. Eagle’s Nest was a small, long building more apt for SMGs, shotguns and fast-firing assault rifles. Finally, Gavutu was the prettiest of the maps, showcasing nice weather effects and beautiful vegetation. They were a decent selection, but spawning was a significant issue across all maps, but none more so than Eagle’s Nest. Due to its small size, it’s far too easy for either team to invade their opponent’s spawn location quickly. The four maps are good, but they all need tweaks to their spawn algorithms.

In terms of weaponry, Vanguard offers up a wide array of classic World War II guns. The STG-44, BAR, M1928, Sten, MP-40, MG42, M1 Garand, Bren and Kar98k are all accounted for, with hopefully additional weapons available at launch. For the beta, it’s a solid collection with no gun in particular feeling overpowered. Of course, that could change with the ten available slots for attachment customization, but we could not level a weapon high enough to test that feature. Alongside the guns are the standard create-a-class features, including sidearms (shotguns are thankfully primary weapons again), perks, and lethal and tactical projectiles.

Alongside familiar gameplay, you’ll also find familiar game modes. Team Deathmatch, Domination and Kill Confirmed are all accounted for here. No word yet on other modes, but mainstays like Hardpoint, Free-for-All and Search & Destroy will likely return as well. Whether WWII’s War mode will make a return is an unknown. In addition to the returning modes, Vanguard comes with at least one new mode, Patrol. Like Hardpoint, players score points in Patrol when they’re in the zone and enemies aren’t. Unlike Hardpoint, however, where the zones switch every minute, the zone in Patrol moves around the map in a circle, preventing teams from camping the zone. It was a novel mode, though unfortunate bugs caused all our Patrol matches to crash, something that’ll hopefully get fixed well before the beta launches.

Call of Duty: Vanguard is borrowing a lot from Modern Warfare, but where it truly sticks out, aside from its setting, is Combat Pacing. Players can customize their matches to play in one of three ways. First, Tactical Combat Pacing increases time to engagement by limiting the player count on the map. Second, Assault Combat Pacing is a typical Call of Duty multiplayer experience. Finally, Blitz Combat Pacing is all about chaos by increasing the player count to 12v12 or 24v24.

Combat Pacing is a novel idea addressing common issues surrounding new modes. Rather than having particular maps and modes for small or large teams, Combat Pacing enables every map and mode to facilitate small, average and large player counts. Tactical and Assault work out well, creating fun and intense multiplayer matches. Tactical even helped mitigate some of the bad spawns on Eagle’s Nest. Blitz, however, can be a bit much. On Hotel Royal, the 12v12 player count works, creating fun but still manageable chaos. On Red Star, however, the 24v24 count is too much. The wide-open spaces and general design of the map make it far too chaotic and ultimately unenjoyable.

 

Sledgehammer Games might be onto something with Combat Pacing. Ground War in Modern Warfare and Combined Arms in Black Ops Cold War were fun modes that offered something for big game mode fans. As dedicated game modes, however, they could only survive if people wanted to play them. As people mostly congregate towards standard modes like Team Deathmatch, these modes end up feeling neglected. Combat Pacing eliminates that fear, ensuring fans of those player counts can always find matches. It does need tweaking to better fit the maps, particularly Blitz on Red Star, but it’s an interesting solution to a persistent problem.

Call of Duty: Vanguard gives fans of Modern Warfare something to rejoice about. Abandoning the more arcadey feeling of Black Ops Cold War, Vanguard brings back the mechanics and feel of Modern Warfare wrapped in the World War II setting. The four maps look good and showcase the new mechanics well, though spawn tweaks are needed. Patrol is an interesting new mode that discourages camping and it’ll be interesting to see how players react to it during the beta. It would also help if the mode didn’t suffer so mightily from crashing. As for Combat Pacing, it’s an interesting solution to a persistent Call of Duty problem, but like anything new, it needs balance tweaks to make it more enjoyable. Call of Duty: Vanguard’s multiplayer is familiar fun that takes the elements that made Modern Warfare such a smash hit and adds its own layers on top. It hasn’t broken the mold yet, and it remains to be seen if features like Combat Pacing will become a long-staying feature, but there’s still enjoyment to be had with what’s here.

Call of Duty: Vanguard launches November 5 on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Early access for the beta occurs September 10-13 on PlayStation and then September 16-17 on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.